The Anger Triangle


The anger triangle is an exercise to increase understanding of why we get angry. It increases introspection by looking at the emotions and values underlying our anger. It introduces "I" messages as a way to communicate when we are angry.


I provide a handout with the triangle drawing and the "I" message format.


"I" Message
I feel (emotion) when (behavior that is problematic) because (reasons) I prefer (preferred behavior).


  1. Introduction to anger - I start with the question "Is anger good or bad?" concluding that anger is just a feeling, and has a purpose for us. It is the way we handle our anger that is either problematic or not. Then I talk about my personal experience with being taught to suppress my anger, and how we are often taught to either be passive or aggressive, and few people are taught how to deal with their anger effectively as children.
  2. Draw the triangle and explain that below anger there are other feelings and below those feelings there are values and beliefs that motivate anger.
  3. work through an example, brainstorming the feelings under the anger and the values and beliefs under the feelings
  4. Ask how well we communicated the feelings and beliefs under the anger when we responded in anger (not well)
  5. introduce "I" messages, including: Explaining the format. Talk about how talking about our own feelings rather than others behavior is easier for the other to hear. People are less likely to argue with how we feel. It is less likely to raise their defenses. Also it gives us a chance to express the feelings and beliefs under the anger.
  6. ask for examples of how "I" messages can be used in the above situation
  7. ask if I messages express our feelings and beliefs better, and if it would be easier to hear.
  8. I usually add a personal story of when I used an I message and it worked well.

Self work

Ask students to bring examples of situations where "I" messages would be helpful, and the "I" message that you could have used. The situation can be from a current situation or from the past. At the beginning of the next class, I ask the students to share a situation and the I message they wrote.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License